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Ceres High water polo teams hopeful
• CHS girls vying for more success; CHS boys building for future
Abel Samaniego and Miles Cabling
Abel Samaniego and Miles Cabling will fill key roles on Ceres High’s youth-laden boys water polo team this fall. - photo by Dale Butler

Ceres High’s girls water polo program will be vying for additional success this fall.

Ceres High’s youth-laden boys water polo team will face a rebuilding year.

“I got a good group of girls,” Ceres High head coach Stephen Dias said. “They listen well. They care about the team. There’s so much potential.”

“I know what our limitations are,” said Derek Wach, first-year leader of Ceres High’s boys program. “I hope to see improvement every game. If we can squeak out a couple wins, I’d be happy.”

Ceres High’s girls squad returns five players from a year ago, including Lilly Blevins (Jr.), Amber Hopwood (Jr.), Reagan Hensley (Jr.), Arleth Sanchez (Jr.) and Jaylon Pilgrim (Jr.).

The Bulldogs have five newcomers: Kaylie Clindaniel (Jr.), Haley Gaskill (Jr.), Eva Onsurez (So.), Jessie Blevins (Fr.) and Presley Vierra (Fr.).

Elise Cannella, Andrea Contreras, Berlin Kahl, Emily Parker and Karen Bernal were lost to graduation.

Cannella led the Bulldogs in scoring with 71 goals. She was named to the Western Athletic Conference Second Team.

Contreras, a WAC honorable-mention selection, tallied 32 goals.

“I have a younger team this year,” Dias said. “Half of them are new. We don’t have any seniors. They’re learning how to play together. I just want to see them grow.”

Hopwood and Lilly Blevins have been named team captains for the 2022 campaign.

“I chose them,” Dias said. “They have the most experience. They know the game well. They showed up to summer practice.”

Ceres High’s boys squad returns just one player from last season in Mateo Gonzalez (So.).

The Bulldogs have eight newcomers: Zion Wesir (Sr.), Jesus Madrigal (Jr.), Isaac Camorlinga (So.), Logan Butler (Fr.), Miles Cabling (Fr.), Eli Farinha (Fr.), Evan Letras (Fr.) and Abel Samaniego (Fr.).

Nicholas Campbell, Cayden Jantz, Jesus Valdovinos, McCoy Adams and Calen Adams are not playing this year for various reasons.

Jaden Joy, Blake Barr, Mackay Cannella and Jeremy Kier were lost to graduation.

Campbell led the Bulldogs in scoring with a career-high 117 goals as a junior. He was named to the WAC Second Team.

Joy, an honorable-mention pick, totaled 17 goals.

“All my kids are freshmen except for two,” Wach said. “They all want to be here. They’re taking baby steps. They know they’re going to be better by the time they’re juniors and seniors.”

Wesir has been named team captain.

“He’s never played water polo before,” Wach said. “He has such a positive attitude. He’s stepped into a leadership role. He’s really taken charge of the lower classmen.”

The Bulldogs will face Los Banos, Pacheco, Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop and Mountain House during the WAC season.

The top three boys and girls teams advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Ceres High’s girls compiled an 8-6 record en route to a fourth-place finish in the 2021 league standings. Los Banos (9-5) edged out Ceres High for the WAC’s third-and-final postseason berth. Beyer (14-0) and Grace Davis (12-2) took first and second, respectively.

The Bulldogs went 8-0 against Johansen, Mountain House, Pacheco and Lathrop.

Ceres High had an 0-6 mark versus Beyer, Grace Davis and Los Banos.

“I’d love to finish in the top three,” Dias said. “That’s my hope.”

Ceres High’s boys struggled to a sixth-place finish in 2021 WAC standings (3-11) due to an injury and a lack of depth.

Kier, a standout goalkeeper, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Grace Davis (14-0), Los Banos (12-2) and Johansen (10-4) secured the league’s three playoff spots.

“I’m trying to build a program,” Wach said. “Mr. Dias has been a big help to me. He’s helped me and my kids understand the game better.”

Ceres High’s boys and girls teams claimed WAC South titles during the 2020-21 school year.

Dias has led the Bulldogs to five playoff appearances (2012, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019) during his coaching tenure.

Ceres High’s last playoff trip in boys water polo came in 2017 under Bill Campbell’s guidance.

Wach volunteered to lead the Bulldogs this fall despite having no prior playing or coaching experience in the sport.

He teaches History and coaches baseball at Ceres High.

“My favorite sport is hockey,” Wach said. “Water polo is similar in terms of strategy. I have ESPN+. Last week, they were showing college water polo games. I was watching that.”

Lilly Blevins and Amber Hopwood
Lilly Blevins and Amber Hopwood will fill key roles on Ceres High’s girls water polo team this year. - photo by Dale Butler